I can't believe it's almost Thanksgiving. It seems like the holiday season snuck up on us while many of us were busy with the Presidential and Congressional elections.
I hope you and your families have been well, especially in light of Hurricane Sandy, Derecho, and other severe weather issues we've had lately.
As I look back on the past year, I definitely have a lot to be thankful for.
First and foremost, I am thankful for my wonderful wife and kids who have been so understanding of me, even when I get home late almost every night or have busy weeks and weekends away. I simply could not do this job without their unconditional support.
Second, I am grateful that I can serve you in the Virginia House of Delegates. I thank you for your support as my constituents, advocates, donors, volunteers or simply as friends. You inspire me to get up every morning to do my very best in this job, and remind me that this is about serving you, the public.
The last three years in office have been the greatest honor of my life, and I am eager to return to Richmond in a few weeks for another legislative session. The 2013 General Assembly convenes on Wednesday, January 9, for 45 days. To prepare the package of bills I plan to introduce in the House, I recently began meeting with key stakeholders and constituent groups . For example, today, I met with constituents who are passionate about issues facing our senior citizens and disabled elderly residents.
Over the next few weeks, I will be meeting with other constituents who have concerns with the current laws of the Commonwealth. I certainly welcome everyone's suggestions on legislation ideas so please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to share your proposals.
Third, I am lucky to live in Northern Virginia where the economy is still relatively strong. Fairfax County's unemployment remains at 5%, which is much lower than the national average and better than most parts of the Commonwealth.
Of course, we are very concerned about the looming federal fiscal crisis and the dire consequences if Congress fails to act in the next few weeks. Should the severe cuts to Pentagon spending go forward under the budget sequestration, we here in Northern Virginia will suffer the most losses due to the heavy Defense industry-related jobs.
I am cautiously optimistic that President Obama, House Speaker Boehner and other Congressional leaders will come to an agreement in short order. Campaigns are over and it's time for them to govern. It is time to put aside the interests of political parties and focus on doing the right thing for our nation. Therefore, I urge you to join me in contacting your federal representatives and ask that they avert such an economic disaster.
Finally, as we celebrate good times with family, friends and loved ones this holiday week, I hope you will be safe wherever you may be traveling.
And if you'll be driving around the Beltway, please read this message from VDOT:
The 495 Express Lanes has officially opened to the public!
In the early hours of last Saturday, the 495 Express Lanes opened to traffic after nearly two years of construction. As anticipated, the opening of the lanes has been a major change for Beltway drivers. There have been several incidents in this area as drivers attempt to stop, swerve, or back up. We expect it will continue to take some time for drivers to adjust to new traffic patterns and signage.
We will continue to monitor this area and the entire Beltway corridor, and will implement additional strategies as needed. In the meantime, please do the following if you intend to use these lanes:
-- Stay alert: It's more important than ever that Beltway drivers avoid distractions, use caution, and watch out for changing signage and traffic.
-- Prepare in advance:
Please visit 495ExpressLanes.com to familiarize yourself with new routes and signage before you make your trip.
-- Get an E-ZPass: All users are required to have an E-ZPass or the new E-ZPass Flex for carpools. You can find all the information at 495ExpressLanes.com or visit select Giants, Wegmans, or AAA Mid-Atlantic locations.
Do not worry and panic in the car if you make a mistake and enter the Express Lanes when you did not plan to do so. Just keep moving through the lanes, and when you arrive at your final destination, please contact the Express Lanes to explain what happened: 495ExpressLanes.com/customer-care or call 1-855-495-9777.
P.S. Save the date for my first Town Hall of 2013! On Saturday, January 12, 2013, from 9 to 11 a.m., join State Senator Chap Petersen and me as we forecast the major issues we will face in the General Assembly. As in previous years, this Town Hall will be hosted by the American Legion Dyer-Gunnell Post 180's Auxiliary, at 330 North Center Street, Vienna, VA 22180. More information to be announced later...